Sunday, 14 July 2024

Vampires and unruly kids take over fall CBS TV schedule

The CBS Television network has long been considered the geriatric channel for entertainment and news. That image is a tough one to shed, even if Dan Rather has been dispatched to a cable network unknown to the mass culture and Bob Barker, closing in on his centenarian birthday, gave up his hosting job on “The Price is Right.”

Not so long ago, CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler told a gathering of TV critics that her network “really looked for projects that were different, that were a little bit daring.” This, of course, explains the choice of Drew Carey to take over Bob Barker’s duties, considering that he’s about a half-century younger.

The idea for something daring at the Eye network is the eclectic mix of shows featuring vampires, geeks, unaccompanied minors, and Cuban-American rum and sugar cane moguls.

To no one’s surprise, another installment of “Survivor” arrives in late September. “Survivor: China” features a group of 16 Americans who will begin the series amid the bustle of downtown Shanghai before moving to a mountain retreat for a Buddhist ceremony where they will be instructed to leave all their worldly possessions behind. Then they will be placed in a factory as product testers to see if anyone survives. Now that would be a “reality” program, but I just made it up.

“Survivor: China” puts the willing participants on two separate islands on Zhein Lake. Divided into two tribes, the castaways are marooned with only the clothes on their backs and a copy of Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” for tribe motivation and assistance throughout the game.

Once again, each tribe is afforded the opportunity to obtain a Hidden Immunity Idol. The oldest person in the group is a Virginia chicken farmer, while the youngest is a student and athlete from Chicago. Among the contestants are a grave digger and a surfing instructor, but I would choose the hiking guide to be in my tribe, unless of course there’s a need to bury some bodies.

In their infinite wisdom, the network honchos decided that kids as young as 8 years old could make for good reality TV in their own “Survivor” game. The result is “Kid Nation,” which looks like it could easily spin into the dangerous territory of “Lord of the Flies” anarchy. There’s already been controversy about this program in terms of evasion of child labor laws in New Mexico, where the town of Bonanza City is promoted as a ghost town.

The premise of “Kid Nation” is that 40 kids will have 40 days to build a new world. With ages ranging from 8 to 15, these kids will spend more than a month without their parents or modern comforts, cooking their own meals, running a saloon that serves root beer and creating a local government. This show seems to have “problematic” written all over it. All I know is that I have trouble getting my own kids to just take out the trash, so how will “Kid Nation” function without some tremendous meltdown?

Catching up to modern times, a new dramatic series could be labeled the Hispanic “Dynasty,” given the rivalries and power struggles for a large Cuban-American family running a successful South Florida rum and sugar business in “Cane.”

The family patriarch Pancho (Hector Elizondo) is trying to decide whether to cash out of the sugar business, a position supported by his impulsive natural son Frank (Nestor Carbonell). Meanwhile, adopted son Alex (Jimmy Smits) sees value in holding onto the sugar fields.

Frank’s focus is on chasing women, while Alex is deeply in love with his beautiful wife Isabel (Paola Turbay) and they have three children determined to forge their own paths outside the family. Alex and Frank have a younger sibling (Eddie Matos) who prefers to stand in the sidelines while his brothers wrestle for control of the empire.

Australian actor Alex O’Loughlin plays a vampire in the new drama “Moonlight,” in the role of Mick St. John, an immortal private investigator from Los Angeles who defies the traditional blood-sucking norms of his vampire tendencies by using his wit and powerful supernatural abilities to help the living.

Yes, he’s charismatic and handsome, and for some reason he doesn’t view humans as his personal blood bank. After saving a young girl’s life years ago, he wants to be a better vampire. I am wondering when he will turn up as a guest on Oprah Winfrey’s show, discussing his conflicted feelings, especially after he develops a bond with Beth Turner (Sophia Myles), a beautiful, ambitious Internet investigative reporter. Falling in love and fighting his adversaries among the undead are daunting tasks for this gallant vampire.

Based on the hit BBC show “Viva Blackpool,” the new Americanized drama “Viva Laughlin” is a mystery drama with music about an eternal optimist and freewheeling businessman whose sole ambition is to run a casino in Laughlin, Nev.

Fittingly, the gambling entrepreneur Ripley Holden is played by British actor Lloyd Owen. Ripley is the ultimate gambler with an infectious personality who is on the brink of success just as soon as he opens his casino that’s nowhere near completion.

When his financing falls through, he turns to his enemy, the dashing, sarcastic, wealthy casino owner Nicky Fontana (Hugh Jackman, in a recurring role) for help. On top of money woes, Ripley becomes embroiled in a murder investigation after the body of his ex-partner is found at his club. Adversity doesn’t slow down Ripley, who is caught up in the intoxicating glow of Laughlin.

Though CBS appears to be running the table with drama shows, there is at least one new comedy on the schedule, which appropriate enough leads into “Two and a Half Men” on Tuesday nights.

Don’t mistake “The Big Bang Theory” for a boring physics lesson, even though the primary players are geeks who are brilliant physicists, the kind who unwind after a hard day by playing Klingon Boggle.

Roommates sharing an apartment, Leonard and Sheldon (Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons, respectively) are the scientists who understand how the universe works, but are naturally clueless when it comes to interacting with average people.

Life begins to change when a free-spirited beauty named Penny (Kaley Cuoco) moves in next door. What else do you need to know about this show? I think we can see what’s coming.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.


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